Tech & Wearables

Tacx Neo 2T: What I love, what bugs me about the smart trainer

Surface simulations, built-in flex, and a stable base are all great. But there are a couple of annoyances about the Tacx Neo 2T, too.

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The Dutch brand Tacx has been making trainers long before smart trainers were a thing, and the top-end Tacx Neo 2T is but one of many interactive trainers from the technology company that is now owned by Garmin. As its hefty $1,400 pricetag suggests, the Neo 2T comes with all the bells and whistles — including the ‘surface treatment’ feature that is unique on the market.

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What I love: The beauty of smart trainers is how they interact with software like Zwift, mimicking the undulations in a virtual course by adding and decreasing resistance, and guiding you through workouts with specific wattage-based measurement and control. In a crowded market with Wahoo, Saris, Elite, and others, Tacx has the most advanced smart trainer out there with the Tacx Neo 2T because of the surface treatments.

What the heck is a surface treatment? Say you come to a stretch of cobbles in Zwift — the Neo 2T uses micro stutters at the hub to simulate the feel. The same for gravel roads and wooden bridges. It’s super cool. Will this make you faster? No. Will it make the game more engaging? Heck, yes.

Overall, the thing just feels great to ride, whether it’s replicating coasting, winding up for a sprint, or guiding you through power-based workouts.

Other pros: The base is rock solid yet the hub has a bit of give to it. The operation is quiet, even when you are abusing yourself at high intensity. And the unit can work with or without external power. I have never seen an amateur bring a smart trainer to a race to warm up, but you could.

The Tacx Neo 2T works with or without being plugged into the wall. Photo: Brad Kaminski

What bugs me: There is no way to calibrate the Neo 2T. Tacx touts this as a benefit, that the machine is always perfect and you never need to fuss with it. If this were true all the time, that would be great. Alas. The very first ride I did on this I compared it to a Shimano meter and Garmin Vector 3 pedals, both of which I had been testing against other trainers and found to be consistent. It read low, as in 175 average watts to 200 and 207 on the Shimano and Vectors, respectively. That’s a huge difference.

But then, on subsequent rides almost all the time, the readings have been much more in line with the other meters. By that I mean average readings of 5 watts or fewer difference to on-bike power meters, such as 268 to 271w. This range is totally acceptable and in line with variations between on-bike power meters I am accustomed to seeing. Sure, we’d all love to have all meters agree with each other to the watt on every ride, but that ain’t happening.

The primary consequence of having a couple rides’ power be way low was that I am often second-guessing the Tacx’s readings, and will often check it against a power meter while riding. As I said above, it’s almost always in line, but the seeds of doubt were planted and they are hard to eradicate.

Other small nuisances: No cassette is included with the trainer, as you can get with a Wahoo Kickr or and Elite Direto XR, and the unit is a little fussy to fold down and move without a handle.